Friday, September 25, 2009

Economic "rights"

Although I haven't watched and will never watch Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story, I discovered that near the end he quotes FDR's "economic Bill of Rights." Here is what FDR proposed as economic "rights":
  1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.
  2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.
  3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.
  4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.
  5. The right of every family to a decent home.
  6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.
  7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
  8. The right to a good education.
While at first glance these "rights" seem banal or innocuous, they are in fact a deception. The deception starts with what is omitted in these statements. The considerations that would take these from proposals to actual rights are left out.

1. What determines a job's usefulness? How remunerative should each job be? And more importantly, who decides usefulness and remuneration? Also, humans in general are notoriously dynamic in nature. What seems "useful" and well remunerated at first will undeniably become mundane to the average person. In which case, who will organise the mass transfers between jobs and industry caused not by insufficient remunerations, but by sheer boredom?

2. What level is "adequate" and who decides?

3. This is basically a regurgitation of #1.

4. This "right" is by far the most irrational: First of all, in planned and controlled economies there would be no "business men" large or small, but rather government employees. And competition is what thwarts the monopoly so how can you inhibit competition (what is "unfair" competition by the way?) and still eliminate the monopoly? Put another way, a government that plans the economy by definition destroys competition, and is an implicit monopoly!

The rest all suffer from the same weakness to the question regarding the definition of "adequate" and more importantly the "who decides" question. I wasn't alive to be ruled by someone such as FDR and for that I am very grateful.

It is the "who" question that highlights the most evil part of this proposed system of "rights", which seems to me the most glaring and unavoidable flaw in the design; however, this is never mentioned by people such as Moore (and the entire Democratic party in the US). Because once you give a group of people ultimate power over people's lives (and make no mistake to implement these "rights" you would have to do so) there is no countering force left to limit that power. And thus the end result is dictatorship.

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